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Multi-cloud is a strategy where an organization leverages two or more cloud computing platforms to perform various tasks. Organizations that do not want to depend on a single cloud vendor may choose to use resources from several different providers to get the best benefits from each unique service.
A multi-cloud solution may refer to the combination of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models. It may also refer to the use of several private cloud and public cloud solutions. Generally, IT professionals use the term to describe a strategy that employs several public cloud services.
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Organizations choose multi-cloud strategies for a variety of reasons. Some leaders want to avoid dependence on a single cloud provider, thereby reducing financial risk. Getting stuck with a single vendor could make it difficult for an organization to adopt a responsive strategy. Other organizations decide upon a multi-cloud strategy to mitigate the risk of a localized hardware failure. Such a failure in an on-site datacenter could push the entire enterprise offline. Multi-cloud greatly reduces the risk of catastrophic failure.
Multi-cloud solutions can also be an effective way to combat shadow IT—the unsanctioned apps employees use even though they aren’t managed by IT. This problem tends to arise when IT policies fail to fully meet the needs of an organization, which is where a multi-cloud environment can be effective: It allows users to benefit from chosen cloud technologies while complying with security standards.
IT stakeholders can manage a multi-cloud architecture with tools offered by cloud service providers. Or, to reduce complexity, they can leverage a multi-cloud management platform. There’s no single best practice guideline for managing multi-cloud because each organization's use case will be unique.
A hybrid cloud is not a multi-cloud, though a multi-cloud may include hybridization. Essentially, a hybrid cloud refers to a pairing of a private cloud and public cloud. Organizations use this model when they want to keep sensitive data secure in a private on-premises datacenter while leveraging the advantages of public cloud for other workloads.
Multi-cloud deployments can include the use of a hybrid environment but relies on more than one public cloud provider. The strategy may reduce the need for cloud migration, as some data can remain on the enterprise's servers. An organization could choose to store user data on site, leveraging one provider for IaaS and another for SaaS. Some cloud environments may be tailored for specific use cases, which prompts IT stakeholders to select different vendors for various business functions.
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A multi-cloud strategy allows stakeholders to pick and choose the specific solutions that work best for their organization. As diverse business needs arise and become more complex, the business can allocate resources to different cloud providers, maximize those resources, and pay for only what they use.
As with hybrid cloud, multi-cloud empowers organizations by maintaining strict security compliance while optimizing computing resources. Multi-cloud also reduces the risk that a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack could take mission-critical applications offline. When even a single hour of downtime can cost an organization thousands of dollars, advanced cloud security protocols pay for themselves.
A single cloud provider may not be able to provide an organization with all of the computing services it requires. Many financial stakeholders may be wary of vendor lock-in as well. If the business finds a better deal with another provider, it may prove difficult to move away from an architecture that is designed from the ground up for another provider's cloud environment.
Using multiple cloud solutions creates redundancies that reduce the risk of a single point of failure. Multi-cloud reduces the likelihood that a single service failure will take the entire enterprise offline. Adding hybridization adds another level of security by keeping sensitive data within a secure, local network.
The likelihood of concurrent outages or downtimes across multiple cloud vendors is extremely low. Service providers such as the Google Cloud platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have service level agreements to protect clients against downtime. By leveraging two or more of these services, risk of disaster decreases significantly—and business continuity improves.